Prof Debra Smith Comments to the BOT | April 27, 2023

Good evening, I’m Debra Smith. I have been a faculty member at the College of DuPage for 20 years. I have a little different perspective to offer you tonight. I have been the Nursing & Health Sciences Liaison Librarian, as well as the Library’s liaison to Students with Disabilities and the liaison for Access & Accommodations for most of my time here. So I’d like to address the mental health issue here on campus from my perspective. Within the Library we see meltdowns at our reference desks, in our public bathrooms, in corners, in our offices, much like our Faculty colleagues.

As a matter of fact, usually during Board meetings, I’m at home doing family time with my future COD student–he’s got a few years yet before he gets here–but tonight I needed to come and talk to you because my COD family is suffering. I’m here to represent my brothers and my sisters in CODAA and in CODFA, and the COD staff, because we are struggling with the amount of our students that have issues that, with the exception of our counseling colleagues, we don’t have the skills to support. I go through boxes and boxes of Kleenex, not because I have seasonal allergies, but because my students are breaking down with anxiety issues and stress issues. I routinely hear that they have to wait two to three weeks before they can get in to have a counseling appointment.

I’d also like to share with you that for many years I have served on the College’s Academic Regulations Committee. We are a private group of faculty members that meet and review student petitions for grade changes because of extraordinary circumstances. And I say “private” because we represent the whole Faculty and we see the students’ petitions and the supportive documentation that students provide to us that are confidential. I’m speaking to you today to let you know that the amount of petitions that are coming through our Committee, where the problem is mental health-based, and they have documentation, is staggering. And it is concerning. And, It. Is. Downright. Scary. And that’s the documented cases. There are also a lot of undocumented cases, where, if people were just well enough to provide us with the evidence that they need to support their petitions, those too would be approved.

So, please listen to the suggestions, and take time before you implement a decision that, I fear, could lead to the injury of our staff. Our students. Our community.

Thank you for your time.